My Car Quest

February 23, 2024

I Thought The Dirt As Patina Sales Fad Was History, Then I Saw This

by Mike –

I thought I had observed a trend away from the “dirt is patina” sales strategy for collector cars since last year in Monterey when Bonhams sold a very dirty Jaguar at a loss for the seller.

I wrote in September 2014,

Selling dirt as patina did not work for this very dirty Jaguar at the Bonhams auction in Carmel recently. It sold for $42,900 US including premium.

It had sold at the Auctions America Auburn Spring auction not long ago for $45,100 US.

The seller at the Bonhams auction lost money, assuming the reported sales figures at both auctions are correct.

1953 Jaguar XK120 Drophead Coupe

Jaguar XK120 Drophead Coupe

I saw today that this very dirty Ferrari below is coming up for auction at the Gooding auction in Pebble Beach in August 2015.

1961 Ferrari 250 GTE Series 1

Ferrari 250 GTE

The estimate is $350,000 – $450,000 – without reserve.

There is not yet a description published on the Gooding web site but I suspect when it is published we will be reading phrases like: barn find, marvelous, untouched condition, beautifully preserved paint, wonderful original patina, time capsule, unique history, untouched since (fill in the date from a long time ago) – you get the idea.

I guess the auction companies will continue to use this sales strategy as long as there are people who pay the money and TV commentators who praise the dirt.

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The Ferrari photo is from the Gooding web site and the Jaguar photo is my photo.

I Thought The Dirt As Patina Sales Fad Was History, Then I Saw This
Article Name
I Thought The Dirt As Patina Sales Fad Was History, Then I Saw This
The auction companies will continue to use this sales strategy as long as there are people who pay the money.


  1. I remember seeing one of those for sale at Ferrari of Los Gatos for 9500.00 USD LOL. The GTE was the first ferrari I ever drove and I can remember how underwhelmed I was walking away from the test drive. Really thats what all the Ferrari hype is about? Sure the engine sounded good, but the car wasn’t fast I think my Ford 2800 Capri could keep up with it at the time.

    Years later owning a Rivolta GT I read the story about Piero Rivolta in his Rivolta GT blowing the doors off a GTE with his mom in the car Heck Ya!

  2. Jack Nelson says

    Not ALL dirt is created or valued equally!
    I have always felt that the “dirt craze” was just that…..crazy…nothing but forgotten & neglected cars. Now, an original, maintained, driven & ‘loved’ original vintage car is something else and a true treasure to find. Gotta hand it to the auction houses though,,,great example of ‘turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse’…Mad Men would be proud!


  3. Georgeg20 says

    i find it a bit amusing how all the blame for the “dirt craze” is heaped upon the auction houses. In reality it is the buyer that dictates the market. The tranaction does not take place until the money changes hands and the auction houses are not holding guns to anyone’s head. Sure, they hype it up. The auction houses realized there is a specific niche and are exploiting it to mine for extra $$. As long as the cars are not mis-represented, I have no problem with “dirt=patina” category. I personally dont buy into it and if no one else would, this category would go away just like the women’s “beehives” did 50 years ago. Jack, I agree with you in that the Marketing Departments of some of the auction houses are worthy of their Madison Avenue counterparts…

  4. Buyers are not “buying the dirt” they are buying validation of their dream. The dirty car allows a buyer the chance to purchase what looks like junk to most and turn it into gold. Like the miner who is laughed at while sluicing the mountainside, covered in silt to later emerge victoriously with a nugget. That’s the fuel behind “patina” gone mad – we’re in the “gold rush” of classic cars. No one feels great victory exchanging gold rings – but unearthing a dirty nugget is worthy of the search.

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